Zenit upsets Barcelona in Game 1
In its first-ever Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs showdown, Zenit St Petersburg left no doubt about its power and sent a message that echoed all around the continent by downing FC Barcelona 74-76 at Palau Blaugrana in Game 1 of their best-of-five series on Wednesday. Barcelona hosts Game 2 on Friday. Kevin Pangos led the winners with 19 points and 9 assists, Will Thomas added 12 points and K.C. Rivers scored 11 for Zenit, which was without injured swingman Mateusz Ponitka. Brandon Davies led Barcelona with 18 points, Cory Higgins scored 15, Kyle Kuric 12 and Nikola Mirotic 10. Billy Baron and an outstanding Pangos helped Zenit get a 34-48 margin at the break. Davies put Barcelona ahead, 72-71, but Rivers hit a big three-pointer and Pangos added a left-handed floater to make sure Zenit got the victory, becoming the first eighth-seeded team to win Game 1 of a EuroLeague Playoffs series.
Nick Calathes got Barcelona going with a driving layup and Mirotic struck from downtown but Pangos and Arturas Gudaitis soon gave Zenit its first lead, 5-7. Higgins and Austin Hollins traded close baskets and Gudaitis scored in the paint for a 7-11 Zenit edge. Higgins hit a jumper and Pau Gasol added a triple but Thomas kept the guests ahead, 12-15. Pangos insisted from beyond the arc but Davies and Alex Abrines fueled a 9-0 run that put the hosts in charge, 21-18. Gudaitis and Khvostov tied the game, 21-21, after 10 minutes. Alex Poythress scored twice down low early in the second quarter, making Barcelona call timeout at 21-25. Kuric stepped up with a three-point play but Andrey Zubkov sank a jumper and Hollins struck from beyond the arc for a 24-30 score. Pangos took over with a three-point play, found Baron for back-to-back triples and hit his own shot from downtown to boost Zenit's margin to 28-42. Thomas followed a layup with a turnaround jumper and Zubkov added a floater but Higgins and Davies kept the hosts within 34-48 at halftime.
Higgins sank a step-back jumper soon after the break and Calathes gave Barcelona hope at 38-48. Rivers answered with a layup-plus-foul but Davies followed a jump hook with a put-back basket and Calathes added a floater for a 44-53 Barcelona deficit. Victor Claver ignited his team's bench with a three-point play and Mirotic's backdoor layup made it a four-point game, 49-53. Calathes downed another floater but Tarik Black gave Zenit fresh air at 51-56. Rivers followed a triple with a wild jumper but Mirotic kept the hosts within 54-61 after 30 minutes. Kuric buried a three-pointer early in the fourth quarter, matched Thomas's step-back jumper with a floater and added a backdoor layup for a 61-63 Barcelona deficit. Hollins answered from beyond the arc, Adam Hanga and Zubkov exchanged baskets and Davies made it 66-68 with 3 minutes left. Higgins banked in a running shot in transition, but Pangos did better with a triple. Davies answered from downtown and split free throws to complete Barcelona's comeback, 72-71, with 1:09 to go. After Rivers buried a huge three-pointer, Davies tied it with a put-back slam. Pangos answered with a floater for a 74-76 Zenit lead with 10.7 seconds remaining. Higgins missed and Barcelona fouled Black, who missed both attempts with 1.8 seconds to go. Barcelona could not get a shot up on time, allowing Zenit to celebrate a historic win.
Kevin Pangos dominated the game tempo and hit the go-ahead shot, a left-handed floater in the lane that eventually fixed the final score. He finished the game with 19 points on 3-of-3 two-pointers and 4-of-6 three-pointers, plus 3 rebounds, 9 assists and 7 fouls drawn for a PIR of 33. No other Zenit player had a PIR higher than 11.
Barcelona completed its comeback, 72-71, in the next-to-last minute. Zenit used a long possession that K.C. Rivers capped with a wild three-pointer. Brandon Davies dunked at the other end but Kevin Pangos answered with a floater, putting Zenit ahead for good, 74-76, with 10.7 seconds left. A defensive stop allowed the guests to seal the outcome.
Barcelona only had 11 turnovers, but Zenit collected 8 steals. Almost every time the hosts turned the ball over, it ended up in Zenit's hands. On the other hand, Zenit had 10 turnovers but Barcelona only collected 1 steal.
Did you know?
Since the playoffs format returned to the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague in 2005, this was Barcelona's second home loss in Game 1. Its previous home loss in Game 1 of the playoffs came against Tau Ceramica (currently TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz) in 2009, 75-84. Barcelona, however, made it to the Final Four that season, downing Baskonia 3-2 in the playoffs.
Both teams meet again in Game 2 of their best-of-five series on Friday, April 23. No team has ever come back from a 0-2 deficit in EuroLeague Playoffs history.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021